The Michigan legislature passed a bill at the close of 2002 approving the new Airport Safety and Protection plan, which allows for nearly $1 billion in airport safety and security improvements.
Drawing from local, state and federal funds in addition to sizable bond proceeds, ASAP will secure Michigan’s airports through more intense screening of passengers, baggage and employees and tighter restriction on access to secure areas.
The flexibility of the plan’s funding will make it eligible for $160 million annually in federal funds over the next several years and lays the ground for continuing improvement of the state’s airport security capabilities, officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation said.
“This legislation will put us in prime position to land federal security dollars when they become available,” Transportation Director Gregory Rosine said in a written statement.
The state’s decision is symptomatic of a national trend regarding airport safety and security. With federal funds becoming available, California, New Jersey, New York and many other states are launching similarly ambitious campaigns to update and improve security.
“This is something that we’re seeing across the country. We’re all faced with security issues, so all transportation agencies are concerned,” MDOT spokeswoman Stephanie Litaker said.
With many of the nation’s airlines struggling since the Sept. 11 attacks, the consequences of tightened airport security on the travel industry remain uncertain. But in spite of the potential problems of increased customer wait times and anxiety over flying, local travel-based businesses remain unconcerned about the new, strict procedures.
“To start with, anything new makes people apprehensive. But in general the new rules are only going to be positive for the traveling public,” said Charlie Corbin, manager of STA Travel in the Michigan Union. “From what I’ve seen and heard, the lines are actually moving quicker under the federally employed screeners.”
Corbin added that he did not expect any negative economic repercussions from the new legislation, citing the stability of the student market as an asset to local businesses.
Transportation officials said that while customer satisfaction at airports is a concern, security should be the top priority.
“Obviously, everyone faces a little more time with these screenings, but we all have to stand back and realize that this is for everyone’s safety,” Litaker said.
University students also said they recognized the necessary inconvenience of strict airport security and called for more communication with the public regarding new security developments.
“When I flew out of Detroit in December there was an extremely long line, but as long as I know what I’m dealing with I can work around it. There should be more advertising about this kind of thing,” Engineering senior Jeremy Harris said.
LSA senior Evan Lison said that while increased funding for security is necessary, it does not guarantee an entirely safe traveling environment.
“I think that the main place where security can lapse is with the personnel. Human error could be the biggest problem with the screening process in the future,” Lison said.
MDOT lobbied heavily for passage of the legislation, as transportation officials worked with other state agencies, including the state Aeronautics Commission and the Transportation Commission, to frame the bill before bringing it to the state Legislature.
“We worked closely with legislators and agencies and put this together before going to the Legislature. We all pulled together and worked as one big team,” Litaker said.